Have you ever seen Christmas Vacation? Do you know every line, too?
Since I was a kid, watching that movie was as much of a holiday tradition as eating turkey or decorating our Christmas tree. The Griswold family (and extended family) made me laugh uncontrollably every year, even though I knew every line by heart.
So, how did somehow, somewhere along the way, that I become the living embodiment of Ellen Griswold?!
* * *
Originally I thought my un-happy holiday spirit began in early adulthood, when I still lived in New Brunswick. Let me set the scene of my family’s holiday movie: The hustle and bustle of buying gifts, drinks, dinners, planning or organizing meals for a dozen people — while simultaneously trying to manage not getting ill in freezing (-25 Celsius) temperatures, driving on dangerous roads and parking in icy streets. Add in some awkward family encounters, passive-aggressive behavior, inappropriate jokes, at least one person offended and at least two people drinking too much. Sounds like the reason I’d dislike Christmas, right?
My family/geographical location did not trigger my dislike of the holidays as I’d originally thought. Fast forward to today where I’ve been living in Vancouver for over three years, currently in my 30’s and living a quiet, calm life. I don’t have gifts to buy, I steer free of shopping centers, take easily accessible public transit on non-icy roads (or an EVO when I’m feeling lazy), save a tonne of money by not spending lavishly family over the holidays. I’m not stressed out or overwhelmed! It’s actually the opposite of what the holidays were that I grew up with– I’m living my West Coast, calmly, with warm weather. It’s holiday dream…right?
As it turns out, moving away from my family and cold weather did not warm my frosty Christmas spirit. In fact, this holiday season seems to be one of the most difficult yet. As someone who struggles to meet new people — introverted, with a slight social anxiety and never someone to have a large group of friends (not to mention I genuinely love being at home) — three years in this city has proven to be quite challenging emotionally. No longer are my limited but and very deep connections available during the holidays.
As a result, this year’s festive season highlights the issue of loneliness, which can easily lead to depression. Everywhere I look it seems like advertisements, movies, photos, music, social media, restaurants (and so much more) are telling me what to buy, wear, eat or drink in order to be happy. Like there’s some special consumerist “Happy” holiday recipe:
- 6 Bottles of red wine (questionable substance use)
- 3 Expensive holiday outfits (compounding debt further)
- 12 Closest friends (Acquaintances at best)
- 17729346 Selfies (to post on social media; proving how happy you are)
- 1 Christmas soundtrack (same songs grocery stores started playing in October)
- 37 Small talk conversations (painfully awkward and un-illuminating)
- Mix all together quickly for two weeks and VOILA! Enjoy and “Happy” Holidays!
This reads more like a recipe for disaster to me!
* * *
In all seriousness though, this year is the first Christmas that I truly feel homesick. I now have a niece back home, my sister is having her first Christmas in her first house, my dad is selling the house I grew up in, and everything seems settled. The feeling of missing out on new traditions and saying goodbye to old ones is incredibly hard. Although I miss my family all year, the holidays just seem to intensify my emotions. It makes me sad to miss them, but that’s OK, I’m allowed to feel sad. Not only me, anyone to can feel something other than “happy” during the holidays — stress, depression, loneliness…anything!
But, if you feel like your struggling too much over the holiday season, and need to speak to someone, there are links at the bottom of this post. And if you’re in need of a warm meal or looking to help serve one, there are options for that too!
- Mood Related Resources:
- Ways to Give Back:
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer
- Purchase small gifts Lookout guests have asked for
- Make a donation to the Lookout Foundation